The first cohort of participants in the Youth Enrichment Programme (YEP) in St. James recently graduated after completing five weeks of comprehensive training and development in various skill sets.
The 540 youth, aged 17 to 35, were trained in food preparation, barbering, business process outsourcing, nail technology, and as waiters and waitresses. They are now ready to take their place among Jamaica’s employed labour force.
The initiative, which was implemented in July, is the brainchild of Custos Rotulorum for St. James, Bishop the Hon. Conrad Pitkin, and a Board comprising well-thinking residents and stakeholders of the parish, who share a common interest – advancing the welfare of Jamaica’s youth.
Their endeavours have been significantly underpinned by strategic collaborative support from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, in the overall quest to ensure that the programme will, as its motto affirms: ‘Leave None Behind’.
This underlying support has manifested through, among other things, partnerships forged with several secondary and tertiary institutions in western Jamaica to facilitate training of the initial student cohort.
The participating institutions were: Anchovy High School, Cambridge High School, Green Pond High School, Hopewell High School, Irwin High School, St. James High School, and the Western Hospitality Institute.
The Custos notes that the Principals of these institutions were among the many stakeholders embracing YEP.
Bishop Pitkin, who provided a programme overview during the inaugural graduation ceremony at Faith Temple Assemblies of God Church in Montego Bay on August 15, noted that while the initial goal was to enrol 1,400 participants, the 540 students accommodated was a “great achievement”.
“[The fact that] we could have kept 500 young people off the streets of St. James for five weeks… that’s success,” he contended.
Similar sentiments were echoed by the graduates who expressed their appreciation and gratitude for the initiative.
Among them was Kaylia Hemmings, who enrolled in the food preparation course.
She noted that she learned much over the five weeks, including fundamentals of kitchen hygiene and etiquette, while declaring that “I enjoyed the experience”.
Bishop Pitkin tells JIS News, that while the programme does not currently have a job placement component, he is looking to change that soon.
“We are hoping that those [students who are] 18 years and older, we can assist them in finding a job. We are looking at directing them into areas of their choice where they can be gainfully employed… thereby empowering themselves… [and] can go back to school later on and further their education,” he states.
Meanwhile, work is underway to diversify the initiative’s offerings to target younger children, through a values and attitudes programme which Bishop Pitkin says is on the horizon.
“The planning committee [of YEP] met to look at how we can implement a programme in the infant and primary schools. If we are going to develop our education system in Jamaica in a way that we leave none behind, as is our slogan, we have to start at that level… the foundation,” he emphasises.
Bishop Pitkin also advises that YEP’s delivery over the initial five weeks will be evaluated and research undertaken to determine how best it can be expanded.
He hints that, to this end, there is the possibility that additional courses such as commercial food preparation and cosmetology could be introduced.
The next set of YEP courses will begin at the end of September.